In The Jungle Groove
In The Jungle Groove

It has been a while. I’m finally back to posting again after a long holiday on the north coast of New South Wales. Up and down the East Coast of Australia is just amazing. It’s all beach! Boogie boards, fishing, swimming, walking, lovely!

It’s been a while since I wrote about a great funk CD, so I thought this one would put the grease back in your stride! It’s James Brown’s In the Jungle Groove. This CD was James Brown’s transition from soul to funk, and this record solidified it. I think the album cover says it all. One of the best in my collection.

In the Jungle Groove is a pinnacle album for drummers because it contains two versions of “Funky Drummer”, a song with the baddest beat in the entire world. It’s certainly the most sampled beat ever. Funky Drummer contains the Clyde Stubblefield drum break that has been almost a foundation for hip-hop. It is the supreme drum loop! Full stop. This CD is worthy of a purchase just to learn that lick. And with an all-star cast of players, the entire album is bangin’ and in the pocket from start to finish.

PT Drums Jeff Consi "Buttermilk" Signature Snare
PT Drums Jeff Consi Buttermilk Signature Snare

Have you ever wondered about how to get that big fat snare sound similar to Phil Rudd’s backbeat on “Back in Black”? That heavy, round backbeat that hits your body more like a bass drum than the crack of a snare. Aside from the tuning of the drum, I thought it was just hit hard and nail that thing! But I was wrong. I grew up trying to perfect the “rimshot” technique, which is hitting the snare skin and the rim of the snare at the same time. This produces a fantastic popping crack, and while it may work in certain funk or pop tunes, it doesn’t produce the heaviest sounding backbeat.

It wasn’t until I recorded with producer Jack Douglas that I learned how to really fatten up the backbeat. Jack, who recorded Joey Kramer’s “Walk This Way” groove, showed me how by hitting the drum dead center(sometimes just off center depending on the drum) and without hitting the rim, you get this great tone and warmth from the drum. It was a huge difference from the thin sounding rimshot crack. It actually took me a while to get comfortable with hitting just the skin of the snare, and I realized that you don’t have to hit it as hard to make it sound fat. It’s similar to the soft touch of a bass player, who will turn their volume up, but play softly so the bass really sings.

Most drummers may know this already, but if this technique is new to you, give it spin. The snare drum is the most expressive drum in the kit, and experimenting with all of the many sounds it can produce will take your playing to the next level for sure!

The Winstons
The Winstons

Here is an interesting mini documentary on the “Amen Break”, which is a drum loop created from a 1968 record by The Winstons called “Amen Brother”.

Amen Break Documentary

The drummer is GC Coleman. You’ll know it when you here it:

[audio:amen_brother.mp3|loop=yes]

The documentary chronicles the history of the “Amen Break” loop. This loop made its way from that copywrited funk record into hip hop songs by Third Base, NWA, and a slew of others. It then leaked into the drum & bass scene in the UK where it was actually copywrited and sold by a UK loop CD company who claim the loop was created especially for them.

Eventually, it was embraced by corporate America to help sell SUVs and blue jeans to suburban America. Interesting take on sampling and copyright laws. Where’s the RIAA when you actually need them?

Hi Hat Placement
Hi Hat Placement

Over the years I have noticed something when I sit in with a band on another drummer’s kit. Drum and cymbal placement is such a personal thing, but what I noticed most is that many right-handed drummers place their hi-hats far off to the left(see figure A). To me, this is a little limiting in that you need to cross your arms a fair bit to play the hats and snare together, unless you play lefty on a right-handed kit.

What I find that works for me is placing the hi-hats more in front of you, to the right, closer to the hi-tom(see figure B). The benefit of this is you free up your left hand to do more work on the hi-hat. Using this hi-hat placement allows me to throw in extra grace notes and syncopated hi-hat accents, which works well in the right spots. It makes spicing up a groove a lot easier. Give it a try sometime.

Live and In Living Color
Live and In Living Color

This record was it for me. A turning point. Tower of Power’s Live and In Living Color. After seeing the Funk Filharmonik, I went and picked this up on cassette the very next day. I was on a mission. I had to get some of those grooves in me. This whole snappin’ backbeat with an under current of light, syncopated ghost notes on the snare truly intrigued me. There is no one that does it like David Garibaldi. Some of his rhythms were so inventive, they still sound fresh today. From DJs to hip-hop(Beastie’s Paul’s Boutique), they’ve all grabbbed a Garibaldi groove or two in their day. This live CD is a perfect example of the syncopated funk that Garibaldi is known for.